Why you really should visit Paris’ WWII French Resistance museum

Why you really should visit Paris' WWII French Resistance museum
General Leclerc during the liberation of Paris. Photo: AFP
As Paris marks 76 years since the liberation of the city, check out this museum which tells the fascinating stories of the incredibly brave men and women who risked their lives to join the Resistance.

What’s the story behind the museum?

Previously situated in a little-known space beside the Gare Montparnasse, the Musée de la Libération de Paris – Musée du Général Leclerc – Musée Jean Moulin reopened in 2019 at the place Denfert-Rochereau in central Paris – above the network of underground tunnels used by the Resistance during the battle for the Liberation of Paris.

The museum’s particularly long name pays homage to General Leclerc and Jean Moulin, two key leaders of French resistance forces whose stories are prominently featured in the museum.

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French resistance leader Jean Moulin. Photo: AFP

This revamped space was the result of the combined efforts of Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and the wife of Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, the leader of the Paris Resistance. During the war Cécile Rol-Tanguy worked tirelessly alongside her husband in the underground bunker that secretly served as a command post. 

What are the exhibitions about?

The chronological permanent exhibition guides the visitor through the pre-war period, the occupation and the liberation of Paris through the figures of Jean Moulin – who lead Resistance efforts in France until his capture by the Germans and death in 1943 – and General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, who led the Free French forces overseas during the war, before taking part in the Liberation of Paris.

More than 300 artefacts from the period are on show, in addition to original documents, photographs, archived videos and testimonies about the resistance.

However, the museum’s most gripping historical attraction lies underground, 100 steps below to be precise.

It is sited in the bunker of Col Rol-Tanguy, the military command post where the colonel, his wife, and his staff hid out to orchestrate the liberation of Paris.

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Part of the museum is situated in the secret hideout of Paris resistance leader Henri Rol-Tanguy. Photo: AFP

What else is there?

The museum also has a series of temporary exhibitions, including one on the ‘exodus’ from Paris in 1940 when three-quarters of the city’s inhabitants fled from the rapidly advancing German army. The exhibit was originally due to open in February, but fell victim to the lockdown and finally opened in June.

However curators have added some extra context in comparing the 1940 ‘exodus’ to the flight from Paris of around 1 million people who left the city in March 2020 before the strict nationwide lockdown began.

The exhibition, which is free but requires booking in advance, runs until December 13th 2020.

What do I need to know before visiting?

After several months of closure during lockdown the museum has now reopened with extra hygiene rules in place and compulsory masks. Guided tours and group visits are at present not allowed, and visits to the underground bunker and the temporary exhibit (which are both free) must be booked in advance online.

Information in the museum is in French and English. 

Where is it?

The Musée de la Libération de Paris-Musée du Général Leclerc-Musée Jean Moulin is on Place Denfert-Rochereau, 4 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy 75014 Paris.

For more details, call 01 40 64 39 44 or visit the museum’s website.

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